Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings, The Complete 1st Season – Blu-ray Review

Review by: Clive Owen

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: Blu-ray: $59.98 US; DVD: $49.98 US
Running Time: 325 minutes
Genre: Action
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now

The unusual case of an anime being better than the video game.

Yeah, I know what you’re going to say. Just like big screen adaptations of video game franchises, there hasn’t been a decent video game-inspired anime. It’s not that they didn’t try (Devil May Cry came close to being really good) but somehow the there’s no series that really comes close to capturing the feel of the game. The Complete 1st Season of Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings might not be perfect but it’s actually a good start in the right direction and ten times more entertaining than the recent game.

Based on the Capcom hack-and-slash action games of the same name (called Devil Kings on our side of the pond), Sengoku Basara takes place during the Warring States period (otherwise known as the Sengoku period) as the forces of numerous clans are at war. In the center of it all is Oda Nobunaga (better known as the Devil King), a vicious and cruel warlord of extreme power that is determined to sweep across the states to rule over all of Japan by using any means necessary.

It is in one of the many battles of this period that we meet a warrior clan in blue armor leading his men into battle. He is Lord Masamune and he is about to clash with the warriors of Clan Takeda, most particularly their best warrior named Sanada Yukimura. The battle between these two warriors is epic and while there is no winner it is clear that they gain mutual respect for each another. While Lord Masamune sees the conflict as a good excuse to find great battles, Sanada fights only to serve his master, Lord Shingen. One running gag in the series is Lord Shingen and Sanada pumping each another with Sanada sounding like a smitten school girl.

Lord Shingen sees it as a good idea to attack the land of Lord Kenshin who is protected by a rogue ninja babe who is in love with the good-looking Lord who seems to have his heart in the right place. Unlike the other Lords, Kenshin wants to protect his people and the land. Lord Shingen sends Sanada to lock blades with the young Lord Kenshin only to find himself facing off against Masamune again.

Meanwhile, Oda Nobunaga gathers his troops and allies to his side, sometimes even by force such as when he has his brother-in-law, Azai Nagamasa, join him in battle but also attack his own land. He also convinces a young Lord by the name of Takechiyo who has with him an armored monstrosity called Tadakatsu that looks like a half cyborg and half mech hybrid. The “Battle of Nagashino and Shitaragahara” becomes a memorable moment in this series as Nobunaga betrays Azai and Takechiyo in the frontlines. In fact, the fate that befalls Azai makes his wife, Nobunaga’s own sister, realize that her bother is a twisted fiend.

What the battles also does is make the other clans realize that the real threat is Nobunaga and it takes a vagabond who happens to be a member of a royal clan that all the clans must unite to destroy Nobunaga. So begins an alliance between the clans. This cooperation, however, doesn’t sit well with the Devil King who sends his murderous wife to eliminate Lords that have united to stop him. On top of that, there’s Nobunaga’s white-haired devil known as Mitsuhide who seems to have his own twisted agenda.

As alliances are made between the most unlikely people and new allies lost to Nobunaga’s agents, both sides still continue their battle and Sanada and Lord Masamune join together as comrades to take the battle straight to Nobunaga’s castle. The result is a massive battle that has plenty of surprising twists and turns as well as a confrontation between the Devil King himself. Interestingly enough, the first season ends with a meeting between the Maeda Clan and another less friendly clan.

Unfortunately, the series is far from perfect and most of the characters can come off as two-dimensional with the exception of a few standout characters like the female ninja, Kasuga, who seems to go into ecstasy each time Lord Kenshin gives her a compliment. Worst yet, the story takes a backseat to the action that is the highlight of this series. Leave it to Production I.G. to make the animation and action sequences look amazing. On top of that, the voice acting is topnotch for both the Japanese and English dub.

The Complete 1st Season of Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings does have its many exciting moments and that is thanks to the impressive battle sequences. The problem is that there’s not much room for character development or a deeply involving story that will hold your interest. It’s like a historical-fantasy series for viewers with short-attention spans and a hankering for action rather than historical intrigue. As far as anime-series-based-on-a-video-game, Sengoku Basara is proof that it can be done and done good.

BLU-RAY REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B-
In the Warring States period, the villainous Oda Nobunaga has taken it upon himself to sweep across Japan on a mission of conquest. As other states and clans fight, they all realize that Nobunaga is a much bigger threat and band together to face off against the monster. In the meantime, they must survive encounters with Nobunaga’s subordinates that are equally dangerous.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
The animation for this series is gorgeous and the battles look epic in ways that outclasses even the game. If there’s a series that deserves the Blu-ray treatment it is this series.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
There’s some great voice acting in this series for both the original Japanese and the English dub side that includes Johnny Yong Bosch and Stephanie Sheh (both known for their roles in Bleach) as well as Michael Sinterniklass. The music is ripe with cheesy heavy guitar riffs like the video game but the opening and closing theme song rock from awesome artists like Abingdon Boys School and Dustz.

EXTRAS: C+
The usual assortment of goodies are on the Blu-ray disc including clean opening and closing animations plus a few trailers. The feature that really stands out is the Sengoku Basara Chosokabe Motochika-Kun and Mori-Kun three-episode anime shorts that features two of the characters in chibi formand its actually funny as Mori and Motochika hang out together. Why wasn’t there some game footage included here?

OVERALL: B-
If you’ve been looking for an anime that is all about the battles and spares viewers a deep story about this era then Sengoku Basara is an anime series for you. Filled to the brim with impressive, visually stylish battles and gorgeous animation, this series has it but don’t expect fleshed out characters you will come to love or a story that will knock your socks.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment

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